CIA CREST database and Geolocation

TitleRecently, to the delight of the OSINT community, the CIA updated its CREST digital library with the addition of upwards of 800,000 new files. While much of the credit for the agency’s initiative is due to the perseverance of journalist Mike Best (perhaps we should also spare a thought for the CIA employees who were likely on ‘scan and document’ duty
in the basement for their first few years of service), granting digital access to the 13 million pages is a welcomed act of compliance and transparency to researchers and citizens alike. Many of the documents made available date from the 50s through to the 80s and some contain guides on opening sealed letters and invisible writing, as well as reports stating the ‘total lack of evidence’ of UFOs.

Admittedly, it is quite fun to rummage through papers with titles worthy of an X-files episode; however, we endeavoured to find how such newly available information might be relevant to non-proliferation research today. This post will serve both to illustrate the type of valuable information the CREST database can offer, and to demonstrate some useful geolocation techniques.

Continue reading

What might Trump mean for the Korean Peninsula?

Post by Rebecca Story, Research Intern at ICSA

Whilst President-elect Donald Trump’s plans for East Asia are still largely unknown, his lack of foreign-policy experience and  intentions to renegotiate trade and defence deals have led some to suggest that his presidency may contribute to destabilisation across the region, and particularly on the Korean Peninsula. Negative consequences for the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) economy, uncertainty over defence and heightened tensions with regards to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) are all possible features of the ROK’s post-Trump future.

During his election campaign, Trump asserted that he would decrease US defence spending in the ROK and demand a greater ROK contribution to the shared costs of defence against the DPRK threat. With the cost-sharing agreement between the ROK and the US up for renegotiation in 2017, these remarks raise concerns that a Trump presidency will lead to a weakening of the alliance between the two countries and exacerbate instability on the Korean Peninsula. Continue reading

The Strongman Bond: Trump and Erdogan

Post by Ed Roberts, Research Intern at ICSA

A Trump administration will likely see a warming of relations between the USA, Turkey, and Russia. With regards to Turkey, Trump has praised Erdogan, stating in an interview with the New York Times, that the suppression of the coup on July 15th was ‘quite impressive from the standpoint of existing government.’ Continue reading

Trump and el-Sisi: A new brotherhood in Egypt?

Post by Peter WaringResearch Intern at ICSA

‘He took control of Egypt. And he really took control of it.’                                                                                                                                       – Trump on President el-Sisi of Egypt

In September during a visit to the United Nations, President el-Sisi of Egypt met Donald Trump in a New York hotel and afterwards claimed that he had ‘no doubt’ the real-estate mogul would make a strong leader. Trump, for his part, said of el-Sisi that he was a ‘fantastic guy’ and they had ‘great chemistry.’ With such a seemingly strong rapport it was little wonder that the Egyptian strongman was the first world leader to call Trump following his election win earlier this week. Yet despite this personal goodwill, it is arguably the end of the Obama era, more so than the looming Trump presidency, that will be considered by many in the Egyptian elite as an opportunity to re-set their relations with the United States. The Egyptian regime has been critical of the White House’s response to the 2011 uprising in Cairo, particularly the perceived betrayal of longstanding partner Hosni Mubarak. Relations were further strained by the 2013 military ousting of the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood regime and the ongoing reprisals meted out against its former leaders and supporters. Despite her calls as Secretary of State for a more conservative response to the crisis in 2011, Clinton’s recent rhetoric, especially in a primary debate when she referred to the Egyptian regime as an ‘army dictatorship,’ suggested a hardening in her stance toward el-Sisi’s government – a fact not lost on the Egyptians and which partly explains their recent flirtations with Russia and Iran. In contrast, Trump’s predilection for ‘strong leaders’ will likely be welcomed across the Middle East as the President–elect is, according to Robin Wright of The New Yorker, expected to prioritise ‘stability over democratic values.’

Continue reading

Stallers of proliferation – Why is South Korea not nuclear?

Post by Cristina Varriale, Research Intern at ICSA

The beginning of 2016 has seen several major blows to the threat perceptions of South Korea. On the 6th January, its isolated and precarious neighbour, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) conducted an underground nuclear test. Shortly following this on the 7th February, the DPRK successfully launched a satellite into orbit, testing prohibited dual-use missile launch technologies. While scepticism of exact capabilities persists, the steps between current technologies and a deliverable nuclear tipped missile appear to be reducing.  Nevertheless, despite a total of four nuclear tests, numerous missile launches and suggestions of a fifth nuclear test possible[1], South Korea are not currently countering with their own nuclear weapons programme despite calls from senior politicians[2].   Continue reading